Taco Bell Sued Over Salmonella Outbreak

It was reported last week that a recent multi-state outbreak of salmonella had been linked to food sold at Taco Bell. So it should come as no surprise that a lawsuit has been filed against the fast food chain over the incident.

According to the lawsuit filed against the Bell’s parent company Yum! Brands:

[The plaintiff ] purchased food from a Taco Bell in Frankfort, Kentucky on May 24. On May 26, she awoke with symptoms including nausea and diarrhea. She rested for a couple of days so that she could accompany her son on an important trip. However even as she traveled, her symptoms continued to worsen and include fever and vomiting, at times containing blood. Her family rushed her to an emergency room, where she was treated for her infection – determined to be the outbreak strain of Salmonella Hartford – as well as for dehydration and anemia. She continues to recover from her illness.

As reported last week, the Centers for Disease Control have been investigating a recent outbreak of two rare strains of salmonella that affected at least 155 people in 21 states. While the CDC hadn’t publicly named Taco Bell as the source of the bacteria, other officials who have been working with the CDC said it has “been clear for weeks that Taco Bell was the source for many of the illnesses.”

It’s believed that the original source for the salmonella is one of the suppliers of raw produce — lettuce, tomatoes, etc. — to the fast food chain.

Marler Clark Files First Salmonella Lawsuit in Outbreaks Linked to Taco Bell [BusinessWire.com]

Lawsuit Filed Against Taco Bell Parent Company Yum Brands [GossipJackal]

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  1. Mobius says:

    While I think it sucks that people are getting sick, I don’t know what Taco Bell could have done to prevent it that makes them liable. The produce was raw, so it’s not like they were negligent during the food preparation. Do we all just take our chances when we eat raw produce?

  2. swarrior216 says:

    I don’t know how Taco Bell prepares the produce. When I was a prep cook in a restaurant I rinsed every piece of produce thoroughly. Because it had dirt or whatever it was in it.

  3. syzygy says:

    Food poisoning is nearly inescapable; it’s a matter of numbers. I mean, try as you might, you’ll never escape every risk factor in preparing food, especially if you give the responsibility of making sure it’s clean to someone else. It’s a shame the plaintiff in this case was put through so much, but hey, shit happens. Bring it to the attention of the restaurant, so they can avoid further spread, but how is a lawsuit going to remove contaminants from your cheap fast food any more reliably?

  4. penuspenuspenus says:

    These places usually get their raw produce presliced and bagged ready to serve. Sounds like their supplier (I believe Sysco) and the original producer are the liable parties.

  5. Destron says:

    Yupp, Taco Bell gets all their produce in a bag already washed and prepped so all they do is dump it in a pan, and on a side note, all their meat is pre-cooked to so they never even handle raw meat – not even cold because it’s sealed in a bag.

  6. scratchie says:

    As soon as I saw a Consumerist article with “sued” in the title, I knew I’d see multiple commenters claiming that there was nothing that could have possibly prevented the incident in question (if not blaming the plaintiff for bringing it on themselves). And I’d like to thank you guys for coming through so quickly and reliably. Just like a Swiss watch.

    After all, “food poisoning is nearly inescapable”, right? It’s not like every other restaurant chain in the country doesn’t have hundreds of food poisoning cases among its customers every few months, right? So why pick on Taco Bell, you big meanies!

    • H3ion says:

      Because any lawsuit would have to allege and prove negligence. If Taco Bell can prove that they did everything reasonably possible to prevent food-borne illness, then they shouldn’t be liable. Sometimes you do just cowboy up and not demand impossible perfection from every vendor.

      • scratchie says:

        Uh huh. And preventing 155 cases of salmonella poisoning is “impossible perfection”? Give me a break. Somehow nearly every other restaurant in the country manages to shovel out the slop without sickening hundreds of their customers.

        • syzygy says:

          115 out of almost 37 million customers each week is pretty good – that’s at least 99.9997% clean food. But I know, I know – ONE IS TOO MANY! Bankrupt the fuckers!

          By the way, do you have numbers on foodborne illness nationwide? And how often an outbreak like this happens? Or are you blowing the problem out of proportion, like those bringing suit against Taco Bell? Hey, it sucks to get food poisoning, I know, believe me. I’ve never sued a restaurant, however, because I am an adult.

    • coren says:

      How many other places have the same vegetable suppliers as Taco Bell?

  7. Big Mama Pain says:

    Here’s the litmus test on frivolous lawsuits-would this person be suing if the offending party didn’t have deep pockets?

  8. dg says:

    Well, considering that Taco Bell puts it’s mayonnaise-like sauce into a caulking tube and applies it with a caulking gun – this isn’t too surprising… Yeah, I’m sure it’s “food grade” tools and tubes, but still…

  9. Conformist138 says:

    Taco Bell should be investigated- make sure they don’t have some stupid policy that accidentally has them doing unseemly things to the lettuce. Once that is cleared up (pre-washed, pre-bagged, yeah, I bet it wasn’t Taco Bell dirtying the produce), then aim for the vendor. What happened with that food before packaging?

    It is possible that this is a “well, shit happens” moment, but the vendor should probably still be liable for the medical bills. Shit happens, but the company selling the shit needs to pony up. 99.997% success doesn’t negate cleaning up that .003% mess.

  10. Destron says:

    If it was one or two stores, or even a few stores in a radius I might say that yes – maybe those stores did something wrong, but when you have a multi-state breakout then it’s obvious that there was something wrong in the supply chain. If Taco Bell had them “doing something” to the lettuce then you would see a nation wide breakout as every Taco Bell in the country would handle the lettuce the same way.

    It really just takes some common sense. Not every Taco Bell in the country will get their lettuce from the same supplier – it prepared and packaged at the closest possible facility. Another thing of mention is that Taco Bell lettuce is JUST for Taco Bell – its sliced a specific way for them. So the same supplier could have been preparing lettuce for several restaurants but maybe the slicer for the Taco Bell lettuce was dirty. If you know how these things operate and understand how the supply chain works from the suppler to the store – then this is obvious it is a vendor level problem. If its one store making 300 people sick – then yes that’s probably a dirty store. But a multi state breakout in a confined region – that’s impossible to blame on the stores themselves.